Communications and Internet Law

The FCC holds legislative and enforcement powers over radio, television, and other media fields.

Complaints of obscene, indecent, or profane content on air may result in FCC enforcement actions.

Emails, phone calls, and other communications are shielded during transmission and later in storage.

An open, non-discriminatory Internet can promote diversity of opinion and bolster our democracy.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is the FCC notice and comment process?
    The FCC must provide notice to the public when it wants to create, modify, or repeal a rule that contains legally binding rights or obligations. Members of the public can comment on the proposed action, which can affect whether and how the FCC proceeds.
  • Why can the FCC regulate broadcast stations more than cable operators?
    Broadcast stations occupy part of the publicly owned spectrum and receive exclusive licenses in exchange for complying with FCC rules. Cable operators do not work within this framework, since they provide their own hardware and charge monthly fees to subscribers.
  • How many channels does a cable operator need to provide for local broadcast stations?
    If a cable operator has 12 or fewer channels, it must allocate three channels to local commercial broadcast stations. Other cable operators must allocate one-third of their channels to local commercial broadcast stations. Separate rules apply to local non-commercial educational broadcast stations.
  • What is the marketplace of ideas?
    The marketplace of ideas describes a situation in which a diverse range of opinions compete for public attention. This concept is connected to the First Amendment of the Constitution and is often considered essential to a healthy democracy.
  • Can I sue someone for wiretapping?
    Yes, you can potentially sue someone for wiretapping under federal law if they intercepted your communication or used or disclosed information collected through illegal wiretapping. You might be able to get actual or statutory damages and an injunction.
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Popular Topics
  • Broadcast Licensing Procedures
    The FCC can issue an exclusive license for a station to broadcast at a specific frequency if the applicant meets certain standards and requirements, which may be determined after a hearing.
  • Cable Carriage of Broadcast Stations
    A broadcast station can choose between a must-carry system, in which a cable operator must carry its signal, and retransmission consent agreements, which involve retransmitting its signal for a fee.
  • Political Broadcast Rules
    Considering their impact on the political process, broadcast stations must follow specific rules for candidate appearances, endorsements, and personal attacks during broadcasts on public issues.
  • Media Ownership Rules and Antitrust Laws
    The FCC historically restricted media ownership concentration to promote diversity of opinion, but the agency has shifted toward deregulating media ownership during the rise of the Internet.
  • Reporter Shield Laws
    To facilitate news gathering, journalists may be excused from disclosing confidential sources or information obtained in the course of their work, but this shield sometimes can be overcome.
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